The Murder of Niyamat Ansari
In the video above, Niyamat Ansari, NREGA/RTI activist in Jharkhand, speaks of the threats to his life. Ansari was murdered on 2 March 2011. You can watch more videos of him here.
Given below are facts of how and why Niyamat Ansari was killed, and the follow-up threafter. You can follow the campaign to get justice for Niyamat Ansari on this Facebook page set up in his memory and in pursuit of justice for him. Please share these links widely, because Your Channel will not organise a candle-light vigil at India Gate. See this statement calling for justice.
Murder of Niyamat Ansari: The Facts*
- Niyamat Ansari was a resident of Kope Gram Panchayat in Manika Block, Latehar District. During the last few years, he was working with Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, a local campaign for village self-rule, also involved in issues such as the right to information, the right to food and the right to work.
- Since NREGA was launched in 2006, Niyamat Ansari and his close friend Bhukhan Singh (also from Kope Gram Panchayat) have been working for the rights of NREGA workers in the area. This included helping labourers to file work applications. From 2007 till February 2009, they supported a demand for unemployment allowance for several workers in Kope Panchayat. Their efforts bore fruit when in the Latehar Lok Adalat in February 2009, more than 90 workers were paid unemployment allowance for the first time in Jharkhand.
- Their fight against corruption in NREGA made them very unpopular in the eyes of local vested interests especially private contractors (who are still in control of many NREGA works in large parts of Jharkhand). In October 2008, they were attacked in their village and hid in a pile of wood to save their lives. In February 2009, immediately after the Lok Adalat, false cases were slapped against them.
- Residents of Kope Gram Panchayat were attacked by goons in March 2009. Several people were brutally beaten, including some women.
- In October 2010, Bhukhan and Niyamat’s homes were locked up and other residents of the village were warned against helping them. Bhukhan and Niyamat clearly identified Shankar Dubey (a notorious local contractor) as the person behind this attack on them as well as behind the earlier attempt on their lives, in October 2008.
- In February 2011, Niyamat Ansari and others exposed a Rs. 2.5 lakh scam in NREGA in Rankikalan Gram Panchayat. Kailash Sahu, former BDO of Manika Block and Basudev Nagesia (Panchayat Sewak of Rankikalan) played a key role in this scam. Babloo Dubey, son of above-mentioned Shankar Dubey, was also suspected of being involved in the scam. After an enquiry, an FIR was lodged against the BDO and Panchayat Sewak on 1 March 2011.
- On 2 March, 2011 a group of armed men in uniforms abducted Niyamat from his residence in Jerua village (Kope Gram Panchayat). He was brutally beaten for nearly one hour. According to eye witnesses, this was done by the same people as in October 2008. It is strongly suspected that these men were instigated by Shankar Dubey and his associates. After they deserted him, Niyamat’s brother and other family members carried his unconscious body on a charpoy from Jerua village to Manika thana, a distance of about 10km. Niyamat’s family reached Manika thana on foot, with Niyamat unconscious on a charpoy, before the administration managed to send an ambulance to them. After this, Niyamat was brought to Latehar Sadar Hospital. Soon after reaching there, he died. Despite being alerted to the danger to their lives, the district and state administration failed to save his life.
- Bhukhan Singh was also being sought out, but he was able to save his life by hiding. On the morning of 3 March, 2011 he was brought to Latehar by the district authorities.
- On 3 March, 2011, an FIR was lodged in Latehar against eight persons believed to be responsible for Niyamat Ansari’s murder. Those named in the FIR are Sudarshan, Shankar Dubey, Vijay Dubey, Purushottam Prashad, Arun Singh, Vashisht Tiwari, Prem Chand Singh and Devas Singh. The Superintendent of Police (SP) Latehar promised to arrest them all without delay.
- Sudarshan, named in the FIR, is known as the local Maoist “commander”. The other persons named in the FIR, starting with Shankar Dubey, are mainly local contractors or their associates. Some of them, including Shankar Dubey and Arun Singh, have political party affiliations and are believed to enjoy the protection and patronage of local politicians or former politicians.
- On 5 March, 2011, local newspapers including Prabhat Khabar and Dainik Bhaskar published a statement (No. 25, available on request) by the South Latehar Sub-zonal Committee of CPI (Maoist) claiming responsibility for the murder. Their main complaint against Niyamat in that statement is that he had failed to appear in a “jan adalat” they had convened to resolve a local dispute about forest land, and turned police informer. In the same statement, they warned Bhukhan Singh that if he remained under police protection and failed to come to a jan adalat, he would meet the same fate. This statement ends by absolving the others named in the FIR of the crime.
- On 6 March, 2011, a joint delegation of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and United Milli Forum (UMF) visited the area and conducted a thorough enquiry. This enquiry confirmed the above-mentioned series of events. Their report is awaited.
- On 7 March, the Indian Express carried an inaccurate and insidious article claiming that the DC and SP of Latehar had sent a report to the Ministry of Rural Development stating that Niyamat had cases of “attempt to murder” against him and had been responsible for the burning of Adivasi huts. There are no such cases against Niyamat, nor did the DC and SP claim this in their report. The following day the Indian Express carried an apology for the same (a personal apology was also received by email from the concerned reporter).
- At the time of writing (9 March 2011), only one of those named in the FIR (Arun Singh) has been arrested.
*This note is based on detailed enquiries conducted by Jean Drèze, James Herenj and Reetika Khera and also draws on the findings of the PUCL Fact Finding team on 6 March, 2011. Some details may require further corroboration, but the main points are well established.
(All links and information cortesy Reetika Khera.)